When I first started my business three years ago, I had NO idea what I was doing. The Cedar House studio had been around for many years and changed ownership a few times, and I was flattered but totally terrified when the owner offered to sell the business to me. Thankfully, she was kind enough to walk me through the paces, answer tons of my questions and share her business experiences with me. I had never run a business before or even really established a personal budget. I was (and still am!) so grateful for all the help and advice I received while getting started, but I was so worried about doing things the "wrong way" - paperwork, shooting, posing, post-processing, everything! - that I relied entirely on the previous owners' experiences and advice without figuring out what worked best for me. Actually, it took me about a year and a half of business ownership before I started coming into my own and reassessing what sort of business I wanted to run and what my style was. Because of this, I joke that I've only "really" owned the business for a year and a half rather than the (almost) three that it's been.Which leads me to a confession: while I was in the process of developing my style and figuring out my business, I copied other photographers. I started out doing things exactly as the previous owners had done. My clients would suggest selective color or glowy soft-focus shots (shudder) and I would do it, without thinking about what sort of personal "style" I was going for. Then I went to a conference taught by the Sallees and started adding texturing to most of my images. Then, I fell in love with Yervant's high-fashion posing. Then... then... then...
The photographic world is overflowing with people of amazing and unique talent, and I still love looking at what other photogs are doing for inspiration. However, since getting into the nitty-gritty of business ownership, my mentality has changed. I want to create my own style and not be a knockoff. I want people to hire me because 1) they like me as a person and 2) because they like the fact that my work is different. I'm not elegant and simple enough to be Jose Villa, I'm not hip enough to be Noa from Featherlove, I'm not cute and quirky enough to be Axioo, I'm not edgy enough to be Angelica Glass, I'm not insanely brilliant enough to be the guys from MangoRed, and I'm not urban enough or trendy enough to be Jasmine Star (some of the other photographers I regularly check out for inspiration). But that's okay. While I LOVE looking at their work, I'm not trying to be any of them anymore. I have my own style that is totally different and unique, and the more I develop it, the more I like my own work. And, it seems, the more my clients like my work, too. As soon as I stopped trying to be someone else, everything changed for the better.
I try SO hard to come up with new, unique, and original ideas that are "me", and I tailor each of these to my specific clients. Look to others who have gone before you for inspiration or advice, but don't go out and buy the exact same props they have, call up their clients to try to "steal" their locations, or copy and paste text from their websites to use for your own (all things that have happened to me since I started my business). Everyone - clients, other photographers, and most importantly, yourself- will notice if you blatantly copy someone else, and not only is that totally cheap, it won't look like YOU. Trust me - everyone will know. It will look forced and will have no heart, since it's not coming from your own heart but from someone else's. I'm realizing lately that my style is truly reflective of who I am as a person - my personality, the experiences I've had in life, the music I listen to, the movies I watch, the places I've lived and visited, what I think is beautiful. My photographic style has become so intertwined with my own self that intentionally trying to shoot like someone else would be the equivalent of trying to BE someone else. When you come across images that inspire you, be inspired! But try to figure out what, specifically, about that image you like. Is it the lighting? The fact that it's in an unusual location? The way it makes you feel? Then try to cultivate that in your work - in your own way. If you work in a creative field like I do, we got into this business so we could be creative, so let your own sense of style take root! You'll be able to be truly proud of your own work, and you'll love it so much more when you're true to yourself and doing something that comes entirely from your own heart.
And because I just can't post a blog with no images, here is a quick sneak peek of my lovely friend Danica from a fun conceptual shoot I did last week. Isn't she gorgeous?